2021 MEDEX Northwest Student Scholarship Winners

By:   March 25, 2021

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2021 MEDEX Student Scholarships. There are eight scholarship categories, each named after an individual of particular importance to the MEDEX Northwest PA program.

Katelyn Stearns, MEDEX Anchorage Class 11

Liza Benson Scholarship

Katelyn Stearns of Anchorage Class 11 is the recipient of the Liza Benson Scholarship. Liza Benson joined MEDEX Seattle Class 45 but lost her life in a skiing accident upon returning to her native Wyoming for clinical rotations. This scholarship recognizes MEDEX students who share Liza’s spirit of adventure, and who have plans to practice in a wilderness or rural setting within the WWAMI region.

“Thank you very much to the scholarship committee and family of Liza Benson for your time to make the scholarship possible. It is a huge compliment to receive this award and it will go toward finishing my education at MEDEX. I’m currently in a rural/wilderness emergency medicine rotation and I couldn’t be more excited to start a career as a PA in a rural setting in Alaska doing similar work.”

Mason Vegas, MEDEX Spokane Class 23

Barbara Gunter-Flynn Scholarship

Mason Vegas of Spokane Class 23 is the recipient of the Barbara Gunter-Flynn Scholarship. Barbara Gunter-Flynn graduated from MEDEX in 1979 and helped to launch the MEDEX Spokane campus. As a PA, Gunter-Flynn was committed to expanding care to the medically underserved. This scholarship goes to a student who is similarly inspirational and shares a commitment to service of the medically underserved.

I am thrilled and honored to have been chosen as the recipient of this year’s Barbara Gunter-Flynn award. This award encompasses the values and goals I have set for myself as a future provider. Winning this award fuels the passion I have for providing services to the underserved, and I plan to continue pursuing this passion as a provider in the near future.”

Bridgette Zuckerman, MEDEX Seattle Class 53

Christopher A. Heim Memorial Student Support Fund

Bridgette Zuckerman of Seattle Class 53 is the recipient of the Christopher A. Heim Student Support Fund. Chris Heim was a graduate of Seattle MEDEX Class 41. Prior to becoming a PA, Chris served in U.S. Army for 23 years as Special Forces medic and master sergeant. Chris had just established a private practice when his life was cut short in a motorcycle accident. This scholarship recognizes an outstanding military veteran among the current MEDEX student cohort.

“I truly am grateful to receive this award dedicated to the late Chris Heim. Coming from a military family, I have an immense respect for veterans. I plan to work for the VA after graduation as well as continue to serve in the Army reserves.”

Sinrita Pratap, MEDEX Kona Class 1

Jennifer Johnston Scholarship

Sinrita Pratap of Kona Class 1 is the recipient of the Jennifer Johnston Scholarship. Jennifer Johnston was the program Administrator and Admissions Director at MEDEX for 30 years. She funds this scholarship as a way to recognize students who have demonstrated tenacity at overcoming life’s hurdles, and a commitment to rise above significant obstacles on their pathway to becoming physician assistants.

“I am honored to be selected as the recipient of the Jennifer Johnston Scholarship. This recognition is a meaningful moment in my journey to become a physician assistant. Thank you!”

Nolan Ryan, MEDEX Seattle Class 53

Mike Merrill Scholarship

Nolan Ryan of Seattle Class 53 is the recipient of the Mike Merrill Scholarship. Mike Merrill graduated with MEDEX Class 26 and worked in the ER at Group Health. After Mike passed away, his family and friends established an endowed scholarship fund to support students interested in a career in emergency medicine. This award goes to a second-year student planning to enter practice in emergency medicine.

“I am honored to be selected as the recipient of this year’s Mike Merrill Scholarship. In hearing from those who knew and worked with Mike, it is a privilege to be recognized as someone who emulates what he was able to bring to the field of emergency medicine as a PA and as a person. I chose to pursue a career in medicine to be able to connect with and help those acutely in need.  My work experience and education has continued to draw my focus and attention to emergency medicine. I’m planning to pursue an EM residency or fellowship upon graduation in the hopes of becoming a leader and future educator in the physician assistant profession.”

Aileen Boyle, MEDEX Seattle Class 54

Susan Vader Scholarship

Aileen Boyle of Seattle Class 54 is the recipient of the Susan Vader Scholarship. Sue Vader graduated with MEDEX Class 27 and worked for several years with the Whidbey Community Physicians group. After Sue passed away, the clinic and her family established a scholarship fund in her name. This award goes to students with an interest in family practice or women’s health.

“I am honored to be the recipient of the Sue Vader Scholarship this year. I am excited at the prospect of working in women’s healthcare. I hope to provide support and comfort to patients in vulnerable positions as I am inspired by my own experience of caring for a family member. I am thankful for the opportunity to pursue this goal and for this scholarship that will help me along the way.”

Alexandria Lahdya, MEDEX Seattle Class 53

Ruth Ballweg Endowed Fund for Leadership in MEDEX Scholarship

Alexandria Lahdya of Seattle Class 53 is the recipient of the Ruth Ballweg Scholarship.

For 29 years, Ruth Ballweg (MPA, PA-C Emeritus and Professor Emeritus in the UW Department of Family Medicine) served as the Program Director of MEDEX Northwest and oversaw the expansion of campus sites to Spokane, Yakima, Alaska, and Tacoma. Ruth continues to consult with PA programs nationally and internationally. In 2017, she created the Endowed Fund for Leadership in MEDEX to support current MEDEX students in their development of leadership roles within the profession.

“I am honored to receive the Ruth Ballweg Scholarship and grateful for the ability to use this award to pursue leadership development activities locally and nationally. This award will finance my attendance of the 2021 AAPA virtual conference and other educational opportunities to pursue my interests in advocacy for the PA profession. I appreciate my mentors who have supported me in my PA education, and I aspire to someday emulate Ruth as a future PA educator and leader.” 

Dr. Richard Smith Scholarship

Dr. Richard Smith was the originator of the MEDEX Northwest program and a founding father of the PA profession. This award goes to potential leaders and visionaries who exhibit a commitment to increasing access to healthcare for the underserved. Five students, one from each of the five MEDEX campuses, are awarded this year’s Richard Smith Scholarship.

Kelsey Miller, MEDEX Anchorage Class 11

“I am a member of Anchorage Class 11 and have been an Alaskan resident for nearly 8 years. With previous experience working in rural Alaska in nutrition and social services, I aim to meet patients where they are to achieve healthy outcomes. I plan to use the scholarship funds to support my clinical year travel to get as much experience as possible alongside our great Alaskan healthcare providers. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity!”



Elizabeth Jimenez, MEDEX Kona Class 1

“I come from a rural area within the state of Hawai‘i, where adequate healthcare has never been a guarantee. In my practice as a Physician Assistant my aim is to aid in providing care to those with the most need and least access. I am honored to have received an award that embodies this cause.”



Nasheed Burgess, MEDEX Seattle Class 54

“I am so appreciative and thankful for being chosen as the recipient of the Dr. Richard Smith Scholarship. I will do my best to emulate his benevolent mission and tenacious nature as I further my studies and in my career. It is an honor to continue his legacy of equitable representation as well as helping to close the disparity gaps by ‘multiplying my hands’.”



Jacob Price, MEDEX Spokane Class 24

“I’m honored to have received the Dr. Richard Smith Scholarship. I have spent the majority of my life helping the underserved, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually, whether it be in Malawi, Africa, Oaxaca, Mexico or in my own local communities. Helping others is a big factor in why I chose to be a Physician Assistant. I hope to continue this endeavor throughout my life and career.”



Carolina Breed, MEDEX Tacoma Class 8

“I am deeply honored to receive the Dr. Richard Smith Scholarship award.  As a future PA, I am committed to assisting my community in getting the health care access they need and deserve.  These funds will be most helpful towards my current education at MEDEX.  My family and I are truly grateful.”  


Congratulations to all of the scholarship winners!

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Operational since 1969, MEDEX Northwest is the second oldest physician assistant education program in the U.S., and the largest civilian program. MEDEX currently has over 250 first-year (didactic) and second-year (clinical) students total across five campuses in the states of Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.




James Wehmeyer is Communications Director of MEDEX Northwest in Seattle, Washington. He can be reached at medexcom@uw.edu.